Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
Once again, I have some CDs and DVDs on preorder from Japan. Seems a lot of good stuff is coming out in a month's time, and the items below are much anticipated.
Pay close attention to the Hikaru Utada CD, since her last Japanese-only release was in 2002. [Ultra Blue] is bound to be one of the best albums of 2006, collecting great singles and offering new gems - you have been warned.
Here is the somewhat short list; I'm bouncing in my seat for the new Tommy heavenly6 single - no wrong can be had there.
01) [Tokyo I'm On My Way], Puffy, 5.24.06, KSCL-988, 971yen
02) [Lost in Uchu], Thmlues, 6.7.06, KICM-1167, 1,143yen (single)
03) [I'm Gonna Scream+], Tommy heavenly6, 6.7.06, DFCL-1276, 1,500yen (single, version with DVD)
04) [Ultra Blue], Hikaru Utada, 6.14.06, TOCT-26067, 2,913yen
05) [Untitled], Ayumi Hamasaki, 6.21.06, AVCD-31033, 1,800yen (single, version with DVD)
I'm also waiting on Kaela Kimura's two albums, since I took a liking to her while viewing [Custom Made 10.30], a movie centered around Tamio Okuda. She stars in it, and plays an adorable, struggling musician. Follow that link for more discussion of said work, recently added to my Okuda-shrine.
Puffy's [Mogura Like] and Salyu's [Tower] are two singles from April that should arrive any day now. Recent arrivals were punctuated by the funk noise rock of [Zazen Boys III] - expect a page highlighting them shortly, spinning off of my Number Girl coverage.
Kaneko Atsushi is one of my favorite comic creators in any language. He's becoming known for [BAMBi And Her Pink Gun] in the US, but his latest series is [SOIL], now being serialized in Japan, in the monthly [Comic Beam] magazine.
[SOIL] Volume 4, the latest collection of his serialized manga novel, will be released in Japan on 4.26.2005, and it's just more of the same greatness. It juxtaposes "typical" life in a smallish town, with a growing mystery that threatens to engulf all normalcy. Science fiction and fantasy meet a grounded exploration of the hopes, quirks and fears of a population, as they try to discover just what seems to be corrupting their way of life.
It has comets, big piles of salt, people acting all crazy, a fair amount of blood, broad slapstick humor, and more, all rendered in that Kaneko Atsushi style that simply can't be beat. You might as well import and appreciate now, or else wait many years to see it translated. Either way, we all win.
Feel free to find out much more about the work of Kaneko Atsushi at my fan site now.
Last year, I raved about Rakubiki Jiten, Japanese dictionary software for the Nintendo DS. Then, I said that "what the world (that is, me) really needs is the same sort of dictionary that can also take written kanji input.... for that feature alone, I'd send my kids back in time to program it themselves." Well, my kids just got back from the past, carrying Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten with them.
That's right, and hell yes! With this tiny little DS card, you can scrawl basically any kanji (Chinese derived Japanese characters), and it will give you the reading and definition. Furthermore, kana and roman characters are actually read out loud when entered, which I'm sure can be useful for beginners. Besides the essential kanjiness, it has the same basic features as the first version, so at this point there's no reason to even consider buying 2005's model.
I think this is a method for giving bees artificial knees, but a warning - to adequately use the kanji entry feature, you have to had already studied kanji in the past. You need to know the stroke order, the specific way that such characters are written, or else the handwriting engine will spit out random stuff. That's no problem for me, and if you are learning to write kanji correctly, it would be a good way to check your progress.
The interface is excellent, but not for the Japanese phobic. While localized for Japan, the software works fine on US DS units, so why not spend your 4500 yen ($49 from importers like NCSX) the right way - the entering kanji with your stylus way.
Part 2 in a Series: SXSW 2006 Bands I Adore, From Afar
One of the first artists I noticed in this year's torrent of music from SXSW was Laura Veirs of Seattle. She's a fine folky blues pop artist, reminding me of Heather Nova meets Suzanne Vega (who happen to be two of my favorites). You can read more about her here.
I was particularly taken by [Galaxies], the promotional track she shared with everyone via Austin, TX. It's a lovely song both sonically and lyrically, well suited for quiet contemplation or more spirited sing-alongs. It was enough for me to track down [Year Of Meteors], her most recent album that contains it and other fine constructions. I'm well on my way on buying her other albums, which are quite critically acclaimed, on the strength of her remarkably spendid latest work.
Like to hear how wonderful Laura Veirs is? Well then, simply download the track below, and then get to work with her other songs.
I love the Hot IQs, and you can follow that link to find out why. They're a thrashin' threesome from Denver, and their first album [An Argument Between The Brain And Feet] is one of my all-time favorites. Now, they've made a splendid video for [Firecracker], the bitchin' single off said album, and even though the song is somewhat "old", the video is brand new.
It was just released this week, and looks quite amazing, interspersed between Elaine (Drums) and Eli (Vocals, Guitar) causing a musical scene in a library, is the whole crew coming correct in some sort of blue-screened super space (where Bryan joins with his bass). It's the kind of razzamatazz that often times backs a video performance, only not as with much artistry at in this fine affair. It looks eye-poppingly grand, right up there with the "big" bands.
In short, you have to see it, and perhaps own it forever. Just follow one of the links below; you can even "right click" to save either format, if you are so willing:
Now that you're in the mood, please be aware that the Hot IQs are hard at work on their second album, and if you need to buy their first one, odds are you will now find it in electronic form, such as at the iTunes music store (thanks to spinART).
Stay Free! is one of my most favorite zine/magazines ever. I've been reading it for years, and recently threw them a big pile of money to subscribe (see my name listed among many in the back of issue 25, the Pranks Issue). Publisher Carrie McLaren represents Brooklyn and the rest of the media-questioning world brilliantly, ever since her early Matador Records days. Her interviews are worth the effort to track down an issue.
Anyway, tonight I was thrown into hysterics by Steve Lambert's post on the Stay Free! blog about a contest Oakland artist Helena Keefe held recently. In that competition, anyone could write a speech for our dear President Bush, putting apologies for all of his atrocities in his mouth, and the winner would be read by a professional sound-alike. The victorious parties were some San Francisco elementary school kids, and their brief speeches are priceless. Download the 5 MP3s, and be amazed.
The top of each junk.log page attests to how much I adore Lindsay Powell and her Cake Bake Betty musical affair. Her first album, [Songs About Teeth], is certifiably brilliant, and now she has a video for one of my favorite songs, [64 White Little Things]
It's rather grand, and amazingly close to the actual imagery of the ditty, which is ripe with kidnapping, teeth, and cannibalism. I found it quite entertaining and well put together, especially considering the ultra-low budget.
It goes without saying that you should download it now (8.6 MB, MPEG-4) and enjoy all of the the pig masks and meat chunks. We'll, you don't have to enjoy that part, since it's Lindsay all the way, which is what counts in the end.
You should also be aware of her impending European tour with Be Your Own PET, another of my Infinity Cat faves. The schedule, as attested to by my email inbox:
4.16.2006: Rotonde-Botanique in BRUSSELS
4.17.2006: Melkweg in AMSTERDAMMMZ
4.21.2006: ULU in LONDON
4.22.2006: Leadmill in SHEFFIELD
For those not in the know, "Amsterdammmz" is actually on the other side of the hill from its namesake - the people are way more hipper there.
If you're not in those cities on those dates, then you can always visit Cake Bake Betty virtually, at her MySpace page, which is currently showcasing her grand new song, [JAWS]. Fine listening for fine folk like yourself, guaranteed to enter your ears and produce many shades of joy.*
(* Guarantee null and void in countries who have declined to sign the UN charter for Universal Acceptance Of Many Shades Of Joy. Not surprisingly, Bush was against it.)
Part 1 in a Series: SXSW 2006 Bands I Adore, From Afar
Animal Alpha are a Norweigan quintet who recently released [Pheromones] their first album. They sound like Rasputina meets Ministry and System Of A Down, with a big touch of early Sugarcubes. I was so impressed by the SXSW offering, [Bundy], that I ordered their album all the way from their record label in Norway, and at fairly great expense now have 10 tracks of wonderful noise to behold.
The album was actually recorded not that far away from where I live in the Bay Area, and it's completely sung in English, sounding like Salt, only with more quirk, thanks in great part to Agnete Maria Forfang Kjolsrud, the lead vocalist and provocateur. She goes all out in staginess, what with presentation that evokes vaudeville or burlesque, twisted and shaped for modern audiences to gawk at, all frilly things and screams. Her voice is pleasantly harsh yet abnormally high pitched at times, and the fearsome foursome behind her law down enough crunch to counterpoint, with the end result of harsh, layered, rhythmic beauty.
Besides the resplendent [Bundy], [Most Wanted Cowboy] is quite the accomplishment, with multiple dissonant moments, starting like a carnival, and laying down train tracks from a dildo-rock explosion to sweet, jazzy club silence. It's my favorite top-heavy song this week, with [My Droogies] a close second (too brillant for words).
Profane, jet-propelled and all-out rockist, Animal Alpha are just the spazzy swellness I needed this time of year. Due to the incredible prejudice US radio has against any music not from the US or England, I have little hopes of hearing such strange greatness save for on my iPod, or perhaps by following this link to SXSW:
Don't you stoop down to the level of US radio - listen away today. I'll have more music to share soon from bands I didn't see at SXSW (due to my lack of attendance), but heard from nonetheless.
Update 4.13.2006: I just found out that [Pheromones] is available at the iTunes Music Store right now. I'm a "real CD" man, but this is clearly the easiest way to hear this amazing album (3 times cheaper, too, factoring in exchange rates and import costs). I listen to it almost every day lately - shouldn't you, too?
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